Property Management Blog

3 Things to Know About the Fair Housing Act

System - Friday, June 7, 2019

Congratulations on becoming a landlord in Fort Collins, Colorado! 

Now, it’s now time to start finding tenants so that you can start getting returns on your investment. 

However, before doing so, there is one important thing that you should know. The landlording business is one that is governed by a multitude of laws. One such law is the Fair Housing Act

What is the Fair Housing Act? 

The law was enacted in 1968 and put in place to ensure that no American is treated unfairly on matters regarding housing. 

The enactment of the act was preceded by a series of attempts that began as early as the 19th century. But perhaps the most significant events that really led to the institution of the Act include the:

  • Civil Rights Movement that occurred in the early 1960s. 
  • Rumford Fair Housing Act of 1963
  • Civil Rights Act of 1964

These were the three main events that led to the enactment of the Fair Housing Act in 1968. 

Since its enactment, the Act has been effective in fighting discrimination in housing. 

What are the few common examples of housing discrimination?

At this point, you may be wondering – what actions qualify as discriminatory under the Act? 

The following are some few examples of discriminatory actions.

  • Lying about the availability of a housing unit

  • Denying a person housing based on their social class
  • Setting different lease agreement terms depending on a renter’s class
  • Using unfair and unequal property appraisal methods
  • Lacking consistent requirements for a home purchase
  • Posting discriminatory statements on property listings

This list is in no way exhaustive. There are many more forms of housing discrimination. 

What classes of people does the Fair Housing Act protect? 

Originally, the FHA had only five protected classes – sex, religion, color, national origin, and race. Later, two more classes – familial status and handicap – were added after an amendment in 1988. 

The federal government, within the FHA, now defines seven protected classes for the types of discrimination forbidden:

  • Familial status: This term protects tenants who have children under the legal age. Moreover, it protects tenants who are pregnant or in the process of child adoption. 

  • Disability: The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in all types of housing transactions. 
  • Sex: This term protects all sexes regardless of transgender status, sexual orientation, and other gender roles and identities.
  • National Origin: This term covers people who are from another country. Accent, ethnicity, and appearance are also covered. 
  • Religion: This law protects people who have religion, ethical, or moral beliefs. 
  • Color: This covers color characteristic, and skin darkness, lightness, tone, and shade. 
  • Race: People cannot be treated unfavorably due to personal characteristics like facial features, skin color/complexion, and hair texture.

Who enforces the Fair Housing Act? 

The government organization responsible for enforcing these laws is the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). 

3 Things Landlords Should Know About the Fair Housing Act

If you are a landlord in Fort Collins, understanding this law is critical to your business’ success. 

As you now have an idea of what the FHA entails, the following are aspects you should pay close attention to:

1. Know how to advertise your rental property. 

To get a tenant, you need to advertise your rental property to increase its exposure to as many prospective tenants as possible. Ensuring that the rental advertisement isn’t discriminative is key. 

Here are a few discriminative statements that you should avoid in your rental ad:

  • "No Christians" or "Muslims only"
  • "No whites" or "Blacks only"
  • "Quiet and mature neighborhood" or "Superb for singles only or couples only"
  • "No young men allowed" or "Only females preferred"

All of these statements are illegal as per the Fair Housing Act. Discriminating tenants on the basis of their race, familial status, sex, or religion is against the spirit of equal housing. 

2. Know what classes are additionally protected in Colorado. 

The Federal Fair Housing Act protects seven classes of people - race, national origin, familial status, religion, sex, color, and disability. 

Moreover, Colorado state law also prohibits discrimination based on:

  • Transgender status
  • Military status
  • Mental illness
  • Lawful conduct outside of work
  • Sexual orientation
  • Age (40 and older)
  • Disability: physical, mental, or learning
  • Sex (including pregnancy, childbirth, and related medical conditions)
  • Religion or creed
  • Ancestry

3. Know how to screen your Fort Collins tenants. 

Once you start receiving calls, texts, or emails from prospective tenants, it’s important that you know how to screen your prospective tenants

Sadly, it’s often during this time that you could find yourself making discriminatory remarks. Remember, even if done unknowingly, it's still regarded as discrimination. 

Fort Collins has a very strict policy on this matter. No judge will disregard the situation if the reason was that you didn’t know the remark was discriminative. 

Thus, which pre-screening questions should you avoid when screening prospective tenants?

  • Do you go to the church in this neighborhood? Religion is a protected class under the Fair Housing Act. 
  • Are you pregnant? I don’t want a baby disturbing the other tenants. This would also be a violation of the Act as familial status is a protected class. 
  • I don’t allow animals, so I can’t allow your service dog. This would mean that you don’t rent to disabled persons. Yet, disability is among the protected classes. 

  • I don’t feel safe renting to a woman on the first floor. You shouldn’t use a tenant’s sex as a qualifying standard. It’s illegal. 
  • There aren’t a lot of temples around here, so I don’t know if you’d fit in. Again, a tenant’s religion should be none of your concern. Religion is protected under the Fair Housing Act. 

There you have it. Important aspects that every landlord in Fort Collins should know about the Fair Housing Act. The only way you can run a successful rental business is by first having a good understanding of the laws that govern the business.

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